The history of the Society of Jesus can teach us many things, but one of its repeated lessons is that Jesuits are quite good at getting kicked out of places—and quite often for doing the right thing.
Just this week, NPR covered the story of Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, S.J., an Italian Jesuit who until recently worked in Syria. Fr. Dall’Oglio can now now add his name to the long and proud list of Jesuit exiles, as his outspoken commitment to nonviolence and Muslim-Christian understanding have resulted in his expulsion from the war-torn country. Acknowledging that his non-violent stance runs counter to the current situation in Syria, Dall’Oglio said:
“…I have taken a position with nonviolence,” he says. But, he adds, “the church I belong to believes in the right of people of self-defense. I will stay faithful to nonviolence, but I won’t be astonished that violence brings violence in reaction.”
Nevertheless, the Italian Jesuit’s solidarity with his people runs deep:
“It would be better for me to be dead with the martyrs of this country than to go away in exile,” Dall’Oglio says. “I have offered my life for the future of this country, and I wish to stay in full solidarity with them; so I will come back.”
For more on the work of the Society of Jesus in Syria, visit the Jesuit Refugee Service website. And for a good background story on the religious tensions at play in Syria during this time of civil strife, check out this earlier article from America Magazine.